Josh Granberry ’13
What do humanitarian intervention, dinner at the White House, and George Clooney all have in common? Surprisingly, a lot! On Wednesday, March 14, George Clooney, widely known for his humanitarian work and advocacy, appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to present and discuss the growing humanitarian crisis in Sudan and Southern Sudan. According to The New York Times article, Clooney had just returned from a (secret) trip to the Nuba mountains in Southern Sudan, where the government of Omar al-Bashir has been bombing civilians and driving them across the border to the newly independent (as of July 2011) South Sudan. Since the attacks began, South Sudan, a major oil-producing region, has been forced to shut down the oil industry. Since oil prices are set globally, this forced act has hurt American consumers, in part prompting the recent spike in gas prices. While celebrities and other prominent public figures have used their fame and stardom to help push legislation in the past, Clooney’s history with humanitarian aid and intervention helps to bring this issue to even greater prominence. We (and seemingly, the rest of the world) were late in aiding Darfur during its genocide in the mid-1990s; and the situation in Sudan and South Sudan is considered “ominously similar” to what had happened in Darfur, these crimes against humanity cannot go unchecked any longer.
Clooney’s appearance and testimony at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was later followed by a state dinner at the White House that same evening, hosted by President Obama and the first lady.The dinner was arranged both to honor British Prime Minister David Cameron’s trip to the United States, and also to thank Obama’s major supporters and donors during the 2012 cycle, one of whom is George Clooney. Though the atrocities being committed in Sudan were likely not the primary topic of conversation that evening, Clooney’s support from Obama likely earned him some talking points by which to further his case. During his time in Sudan and South Sudan, Clooney was able to capture footage and put together a short video much in line with the recent Kony 2012 video, prompting awareness of the situation and advocating immediate intervention.
Clooney’s Sudanese storm did not end at the White House however. On Friday, March 16, he and a slew of others were arrested after protesting outside Sudan’s embassy in Washington, D.C. Clooney, along with his father, Dick Gregory, Martin Luther King III, and a host of various U.S. representatives, was arrested and charged with disorderly crossing of a police line, and posted a bail of $100. Using much of the rhetoric employed during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee just two days ago, Clooney wanted to bring attention to accusations surrounding Sudan’s president. President Omar al-Bashir is criticized for allegedly using military force to block food and humanitarian aid intended for civilians. According to American officials, over 500,000 civilians are being deprived of food, medicine, and other aid, resulting in the deaths of thousands, a “man-made tragedy by the government of Khartoum to get these people to leave.”
In the course of merely three days, George Clooney managed to testify before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee, visit with the president during a state dinner, and make international headlines by being arrested outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington, D.C. Clearly advocating intervention in the crisis, one must ask, should we get involved in another overseas conflict? After “tampering” with the governments of South America and the Middle East, should we look to Africa as our next crusade for democratic capitalism? Should this be motivated by the interest in oil in the region? I contend that while our recent action in the Middle East was a fiasco of sorts, this situation does require international attention, attention that will work with the Sudanese people to combat Omar al-Bashir and help rebuild the country. It should not be motivated by material interest in the region, but in the hopes that future relations can be established with both Sudan and the surrounding region. Conflicts should not have to appeal to a nation based solely on what they can provide in return if they should intervene. Nor should an “enlightening” crusade be undertaken in the hopes of reforming the populace. When a nation sees another in danger, especially one in which the acts committed harken back to a very recent conflict (Darfur), that nation should, with the help and support of the international community, find the power to help overcome the evil that has marked the nation in danger, and help bring reform in the best way possible in accordance with the majority populaces’ needs and demands. Thus, aid in the Sudanese sense should not be seen as a way to gain material benefits, but as a promotion of human rights and the rights of individual citizens.